Fungal conservation

Fungi on rotting log © Chris CheffingsThere are far fewer explicit conservation measures taken for fungi than for many of the other taxonomic groups.  There are almost no conservation activities specifically associated with the large number of microfungi, however this is a problem common to all microscopic or extremely non-conspicuous groups.  In general, lichenised fungi are the group best covered by conservation measures and legislation.  Other macrofungi, such as ‘mushrooms and toadstools’, are not so well covered.  At least a part of the reason for this is the fact that the ‘mushroom’ is simply the (often ephemeral) fruiting body of what can be a much larger and longer lasting ‘fungal mycelium’.  Numbers of fruiting bodies at any particular site can undergo large and unpredictable fluctuations.  The relationship between the frequency of fruiting and the health and extent of the mycelium is only poorly understood, and this reduces confidence in the appropriateness of conservation measures.  The better inclusion of lichens in conservation is probably due to the lack of this confusion.  It is to be hoped that the increasing emphasis on conservation of ecosystem services and genetic diversity will increase the prominence of fungi in conservation.
Fungi appear in almost no international conventions or directives.  There are no fungi in the Appendices to the Bern Convention, and there is no explicit mention in the Convention on Biological Diversity.  A small number of lichens are included in Annex V of the Habitats and Species Directive.
Within JNCC and the Country Agencies, provision of fungal conservation advice is commonly delegated to the botanists, rather than to specialist mycologists.  The inter-agency group with responsibility is the Plant Conservation Working Group, which also has responsibility for vascular plants, bryophytes and terrestrial and freshwater algae.  In addition, JNCC and the Country Agencies play an active role in the Fungus Conservation Forum; a UK-body set up in 1999 to promote the conservation of fungi.  This group is administered by Plantlife, and they should be contacted for further information.